Philippines: Downgrading of Long-Term Visa Now Required Prior to Cancellation of ACR I-Card
Effective immediately, the Bureau of Immigration has announced that foreign national holders of Alien Certificate of Registration Identity Cards must first downgrade their Long-Term Visas before they can file an application to cancel their cards. Foreign nationals leaving the country following the end of assignment or termination of employment are required to have their ACR I-Cards cancelled before they are cleared for departure.
The Bureau of Immigration (BI) has approved the recommendation of the Alien Registration Division (ARD) to require foreign nationals to downgrade their Long-Term Visas before they can file an application to cancel their Alien Certificate of Registration Identity Cards (ACR I-Card). Foreign nationals leaving the country following the end of assignment or termination of employment are required to have their ACR I-Cards cancelled before they are cleared for departure. This new requirement takes effect immediately.
Pre-Departure Cancellation Process
Downgrading refers to the immigration authorities cancelling and replacing the foreign national's Long-Term Visa with a Tourist Visa. Once a foreign national's visa is downgraded, an Emigration Clearance Certificate (ECC) is subsequently issued that serves as an exit clearance for final departure. Personal appearance is required in order to obtain the ECC, and the whole process takes around three to four weeks to complete. During this time, the foreign national may not be able to leave the country since a pending downgrading application is flagged to immigration checkpoints at the ports of exit. As a result, immigration officers at these checkpoints may prevent the foreign national from leaving until the downgrading process is completed and the required ECC obtained.
Previously, it was acceptable practice for foreign nationals to leave the Philippines before the expiry of their visas and initiate the cancellation of their ACR I-Cards through representatives while they are abroad. However, such practice was deemed irregular by the Chief of the ARD, resulting in this change.
What This Means for Employers and Foreign Nationals
Foreign nationals with pending applications for cancellation should plan for potential delay and additional costs incurred by their extended stay as a result of this additional requirement. They should immediately contact their immigration professionals to assist with the downgrading process.
Employers should consider the additional processing time in planning their employees' exit from the country. They should also notify their immigration professionals at least six weeks in advance of their employees' assignment end date to provide sufficient time to complete the cancellation formalities.
We worked closely with Follosco, Morallos & Herce in Manila to prepare this alert. It is for informational purposes only. If you have any questions, please contact the global immigration professional with whom you work at Fragomen or send an email to APCCInitiations@fragomen.com.